Cabdrivers 1, multinational 0 in Kansas City

Posted by: Gordon on 4/20/2015
Pastor Ed Kail with cab drivers and other MORE2 leaders
Pastor Ed Kail helped organize cab drivers and other MORE2 leaders in a campaign that ended exclusive rights to serve major downtown establishments so women and minority-owned cab companies could carry on in Kansas City, MO.

When a transnational corporation went to war with Uber and Lyft in Kansas City, small cab company owners and drivers and consumers were the unlikely winners thanks to some help from MORE2.

Last year Kansas City’s Yellow cab company, part of the French multinational corporation Veolia, signed exclusive rights to pick up passengers at downtown hotels, casinos and entertainment venues. That meant other cab companies could drop off fares, but only Yellow cabs could legally pick up there. City Council changed the law April 10 after MORE2 leaders and cab drivers held rallies, met with members of the council and publicized the issues.

Yellow had created a monopoly that put people at risk for higher charges or lack of service and it also had the effects of putting out of business small independent cab companies that were predominantly owned by women and people of color, MORE2 leaders found after learning about the problem and working with the independent owners.

Initially they thought Uber was going to crush the campaign. But in the end the entry of ridesharing into Kansas City helped insure a new ordinance would be passed to cover the new “transportation network companies.” Advocates worked to get language banning exclusive contracts into the legislation.

Retired pastor Ed Kail, a MORE2 leader who went through weeklong leadership training last August, jumped into the campaign.

“In the face of global capital, local people need advocates,” Kail says. “I was a United Methodist pastor for 40 years. In Iowa, I saw the harm done to local communities when global players moved in, and agriculture became agribusiness. They set the terms of business, extracted profits, dumbed down the workforce and basically tore small communities apart.

“In the end the argument I was using most was, what kind of community are we going to have in Kansas City? One dominated by monopolists extracting profits and taking jobs away from us? Or a place where there’s justice and opportunity for everybody?”

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